For as long as I’ve been in business, I’ve had a team scattered around the world.
I had a video production company with 300+ camera operators spread across the US. I had a consulting business with web developers in Eastern Europe. I’m a partner in a graphic design company with over 200 full-time designers in the Philippines. And now in my SaaS company, Trainual, our employees use their unlimited PTO to log in from everywhere.
Whether you operate across time zones or just across local co-working spots and coffee shops, your processes are the glue that holds your business together. And explaining how you do what you do is mission critical for work to carry on smoothly.
Here are some tips to document what you do so that you can scale your remote teams.
Training Happens Before the Hire
You might normally train a new hire on their first day, but the most important training happens before you ever offer the job. As part of your hiring process, assign some basic learning material.
- Teach the applicant about your product or service, and ask them to identify a few competitors. This shows that they understand what you do, and that they know how to use Google.
- Ask your applicant to review your core values, and share some personal stories about how they have exemplified these values in the past.
- At my video company, we even tested applicants with a simple multiple choice test to prove that they reviewed the content.
The serious candidates will rise to the surface, saving you a lot of time with interviews.
Graduate Beyond Text for Training
How do you explain things at your company? If you’re only training one person, maybe you spend all day emailing them instructions. If you’re training a handful of people, maybe you’ve taken the time to build some Google Docs or Evernote notes.
But when you’re scaling, you need to graduate beyond text. Effective training should include screenshots (I recommend Skitch or Droplr for simple screenshots and annotation) and screencasts (we love Loom for simple recordings). As you get more advanced, recorded presentations or “talking head” videos are a great way to add interest and more efficiently communicate.
Create a Hub for Your Business Playbook
Folders can get disorganized quickly, so explore different knowledge base and intranet tools, or a more comprehensive software to easily gather everything in one place. Take the time to divide your content into departments and roles within your company. Beyond just your internal material, you might gather other content like favorite blog posts, YouTube videos, or lectures that you’d like your team to have access to. And remember to train your team on all the software tools that you use in your business, most of which have thorough help docs that you can gather and include in your own documentation.
Train, but Don’t Micromanage
A lot of people confuse process-oriented businesses with mountains and mountains of checklists. Don’t make that mistake. Checklists and task templates are fantastic resources for your team at a large, macro, project level. But as you create more and more checklists and assign those checklists to your team, they can be easily inundated with to-dos.
Instead, invest in your training. Show your team how to do something, test that they can do it, and then leave the micro tracking largely up to them. As long as you’re getting the result you want, there is no sense in burdening your team by tracking every checkbox.
Keep Everything Current
Taking the time to create training is an investment. But, if you neglect your materials over time, your investment quickly loses effectiveness. So, you have to keep it up!
- Every quarter, run a report to see when your processes were last updated. Prune the out of date materials, and update anything that has changed while it’s still fresh in your time.
- At the end of each training topic, ask your new hires to submit questions or point out anything that seems out of date. This way, your materials are always fresh.
- When do you change something, make sure everyone knows about it. When you find a new best practice, and don’t immediately update your entire team, you are bleeding profitability.
As you document your business, everything gets easier. New hires get up to speed faster. Bad hires are easier to replace. Teammates can more easily fill in for one another. Processes continue to be refined, and everyone has access (and is held accountable for) the best way to do the work. A global workforce will open up to you, and you’ll scale faster than ever.
Chris Ronzio is the founder and CEO of Trainual, an simple software for growing companies to build online training manuals, document standardized processes, and onboard new team members.